This healty tips blog is from the HealthPartners Green Team.
Did you know Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of year? That’s about one million extra tons of trash each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s an environmental impact with everything we consume around the holidays,” says Dana Slade, sustainability program manager. “There’s more food waste, gift wrapping and packaging, holiday decorations and lights, and old electronics that might be tossed once the new models are found under the tree.”
The good news is that it’s possible to balance the joy and spirit of the holiday season with an effort to decrease your environmental impact. In the process, you (and your family and friends) can feel good about the gift you give to the environment!
- Gift-wrapping: Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper, and reuse tissue paper and other packaging as much as possible. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Try using colorful pages torn from magazines to wrap small gifts, old maps, or Sunday comics. Avoid using paper entirely by using reusable bags, tins, baskets or boxes. If you do buy wrapping paper, look for recycled paper.
- Cards: If you send holiday cards, look for ones made of recycled paper and avoid cards with glossy, shiny or gold foil coatings since those can’t be recycled. Save the cards you get in the mail, cut off the fronts and use them as postcards, recipe cards or gift tags next year. Even better, consider an electronic or online card instead of a paper card (like jibjab.com, where you can put your face on a dancing elf!).
Reduce energy use
- Lights: whether for your house or your tree, holiday lights use a lot of electricity. Buy LED lights instead of incandescent – they use less electricity, last longer and save you money in the long run. Remember to turn off your lights during the day. A timer is a big help so you’re not wasting electricity when you’re away. And always recycle old Christmas lights! Check out the Recycling Association of Minnesota for a recycling location near you.
- Batteries: About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run.
- Trees: Approximately 33 million live trees are sold in North America every year for the holiday season. If it’s an option for you, consider buying a potted tree and plant it after the holidays. If you get a live tree, it’s important to recycle your tree instead of sending it to the landfill. Check with your regular trash company – many offer recycling of trees after the holidays, so you can leave the tree on your curb for pick-up.
- Food: We generate three times as much food waste over the holidays than other times of year. If you’re hosting, the fear of not having enough food can often cause over-cooking! Plan out how much your guests will realistically need, and then create a shopping list that you stick to. Use small plates to encourage guests to take only what they need, and encourage self-service – seconds and thirds are still an option but there’s less left on platters and wasted. After the meal is over, be sure to properly store leftovers. Putting food in smaller, individually sized containers makes them easier to grab for a quick meal rather than passed over and eventually wasted. Another option is to donate leftovers to a food bank or shelter – here’s an easy food bank locator from Feeding America.
Educate and advocate for yourself (and friends and family)
- Gifts: If you want to take things a step further than the tips above, the holidays are a great time to advocate for giving and receiving gifts that have less environmental impact. Environmentally smart gifts can also be some of the best gifts: Homemade gifts like cookies, bread, jam, a knitted scarf or blanket, a collection of family recipes, or an original story or poem
- Experience gifts for a trip or an outing – concert tickets, movie tickets, gift cards for a restaurant, or a park/museum membership
- Financial gifts that contribute to the future of someone you care about – a savings account for your kids, retirement fund for your parents or partner
- Environmentally messaged gifts like a reusable water bottle, a nature photography book, a canvas tote page, a battery recharger or items made from recycled materials
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